State tops on death spiral list

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By Harold Morgan

The most recent economic ranking to wander through here paints New Mexico harshly. Certainly the words are blunter than usual. We lead a group of eleven states called “death spiral states” by Forbes.com. http://forbes.com/sites/baldwin/2012/11/25/do-you-live-in-a-death-spiral...
“Death spiral” is harsh. So is the “taker/maker” distinction employed in the post by staffer William Baldwin, who says, “A taker is someone who draws money from (state or local) government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector.” To make the spiral list, a state needs more takers than makers and to be in the lower half of a credit analysis by Conning & Co., a money manager that measures risk in insurance company portfolios.
New Mexico has the highest taker / maker ratio at 1.53. Mississippi is second. There it is. We’re in excusive company. California, New York and Illinois are among the eleven. The future is “a rising tax burden, deteriorating state finances and an exodus of employers,” Baldwin says.
Relative to other states, less money sloshes around New Mexico’s households. For 2010, the latest year available, households in the state had a median income of $44,732. From the Census, this is a three-year average of 2009, 2010 and 2011. As usual, our neighbors earn more with Colorado in eighth place ($59,803); Utah 11th ($58,438); and Arizona 31st ($48,319).
Maryland is number one at $67,469. Virginia, the other state wrapped around Washington, D.C., is sixth with $62,776.
Mississippi takes its accustomed bottom slot at $39,078. West Virginia, the new star of the nether reaches, is 44th ($42,801). Low prices for coal and natural gas help explain West Virginia’s present economic travails.
Los Alamos being too small to officially be a city leaves Santa Fe as income leader among our four metropolitan statistical areas (cities), according to figures released November 26 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Santa Feans averaged earnings (what is called per capita personal income and is personal income divided by population) of $43,425 during 2011. That was good for 56th among cities nationally.
The 7.4 percent growth for 2011 beat the national 4.3 percent growth for 2011, but followed very slight growth (0.1 percent) in 2010. In Los Alamos County, $60,719 was the 2011 per capita income.
Per capita income nationally was $41,560 in 2011. For New Mexico it was $34,133.
Albuquerqueans’ 2011 earnings ($35,007) ranked 226 nationally. The growth, 4.8 percent, beat the national growth, but, like Santa Fe, came after little increase in 2010.
Albuquerque’s income rank among cities has fallen 59 places in 20 years—from 167 in 1991.
Odessa, Texas, (think oil) led city income growth in 2011 with a 14.8 percent increase. Midland, 20 miles northeast along I-20, was just behind. Midland is 98 miles from Hobbs. For purposes of economic description, Lea, Eddy and Chaves counties are in the Midland-Odessa economic area, the BEA says.
The financial wizards in the Stanford, CT, metro area had the nation’s highest earnings in 2011, followed by Midland. McAllen, TX, held its position of having the lowest average income among the nation’s 366 cities.
El Paso and Las Cruces, located on the border with Mexico as is McAllen, ranked, respectively, 339 and 341. Metro Farmington ranked 320 with a 2011 income of $31,373.
For the state, th average income was $34,575, which placed us 43rd nationally. Utah was behind us at 45th due to its young population (all those extra per capitas) and Arizona $1,300 ahead to place 40th. Colorado’s 2011 income, $44,088) placed it 15th nationally. On average, Coloradans earned $9,513 more than did New Mexicans during 2011.
Even if the Forbes.com death language is overwrought, we are way, way behind.
Harold Morgan
NM Progress